Tuesday, October 23, 2018


The Happy Discovery. I think I'll call him Klaus (as in early Xmas present)

When putting together my original 19thC Prussian forces, I went with the Northstar 1866 Prussians as my base figures. Unfortunately, when Northstar picked up the line from Helion, they seem to have reduced the range, leaving a few gaps. Specifically, there are no mounted officers. At  that time, however, I was lucky enough to scoop up a few Prussian mounted commanders via Caliver Books, who were then clearing out their Helion odds and ends.  Readers of this blog may recall an earlier post wherein I described pressing a specialty figure, a Prussian 1866 uhlan trumpeter, into the role of command figure due to this shortage.  Well, there has been a surprise development since then.

Because we were going to have some work done on the house, I was obliged to do something that I had long been putting off--clearing out and organizing my lead mountain and associated jumble of hobby stuff in my basement painting area.  This was a laborious, two- day activity, but I diligently went through every box, bag, and bin. In so doing, I found things I had forgotten, brought forward lapsed projects into the light of day, and struck gold: a forgotten Northstar Prussian Command figure! How I came to lose track of such a key fellow is beyond me. Well, not really. I know exactly how it happened: too much stuff and too little focus (oh, shiny...oh, shiny...)--a cousin to the syndrome of ordering a book and then discovering you already had it--I'm sure nobody but me has experienced that one.... 

Taking this  as an object lesson, I promptly painted him and plopped him on a command stand before I had the chance to put him "someplace safe" and forgot him again...
...and with the addition of Klaus, Prinz Frederick's staff has been expanded by 33% (not counting Trumpeter).    

Sometimes, even a mundane chore can render a reward!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A StuG (of course) menaces the allies at the Tobacco Factory. 

This last Saturday our club gathered for its annual game day.  This year, the destination was Italy, 1943, using the Iron Cross rules.
Early in the day, the donut selection was fulsome and the game masters were on hand to set up their games: from left to right: Mark D, Charlie (in the green shirt near the back of the room), Ralph (vest and cap bending over table), and AJ.  We had 10 players and 4 game masters in the room when the time came to get going--a respectable gathering, I think.  However, it was not enough to float 4 games.  So we decided to concentrate on two tables (AJ's and Ralph's), resulting in two very rousing 6 player games that started in the morning and roared (literally) into the late afternoon, when we finally broke up and headed out to dinner.  Nevertheless, credit is still is due to Mark D and Charlie for being part of the crew who planned the day, had their games ready, and were good sports about supporting the larger cause--they were invaluable player-coaches in the games that they played in.  As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this report.
Mid-day and all are actively involved in AJ's game in the foreground and Ralph's in the background.

AJ's Game: The Tobacco Factory
AJ's stunning custom-made model of the tobacco factory was the centerpiece of action on his table that pitted the British vs the Germans.

I did not play in AJ's game, so can't comment on it other than to say that it had to be decided at the close of the day by a set of "sudden death" victory conditions that AJ came up with on the spur of the moment. The decision leaned German at the end, but by all accounts it was an entertaining, balanced experience, the sort that ended with a shout on the final exchange of dice.  You can read a more complete AAR on AJ's blog.   Despite playing on the next table I did manage to get some shots of AJ's game...
Above Left: AJ briefing players before the game.  Seated next to him are Team Germany, from left to right, John M, Josh, and Byron. Above Right: Bob O and Kevin of Team Britain contemplate the situation (Phil, not pictured, made up the third member).
 Ground's eye view from behind the German line
Behind the British line looking towards the Germans.

Ralph's Game: The Battle of Alta Villa
I played in this game, which pitted US forces vs German for control of key terrain and the town of Alta Villa.  I was on the left flank of Team USA, but more on that in a bit.  Here is the synopsis of the scenario:

Historically, between the 11th and 13th of September 1943 battle raged on hill 242 and in the town of Alta Villa. Elements of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division fought a back and forth battle with the 142nd and 143rd Regimental Combat Teams of the American army. At our game day we took up the fight just as the Americans captured hill 242, the dominant terrain feature in the area. The Panzergrenadiers held most of the town of Alta Villa, the other important terrain feature in the area. The Germans did not control the upper village of Alta Villa. There a small, beleaguered American garrison protecting an overburdened aid station struggled to survive.  US objectives were to break through and liberate the US garrison, hold hill 242, and take Alta Vista. The Germans were to take Hill 242 and to hold Alta Vista--also capture the US garrison. 

Above Left: Ralph briefing players on the game. Above Right, members of Team Germany, from left to right, Michael, Rob, and Mark D.  Not pictured are fellow members of Team USA, Earl (commander), and Charlie.  I would spend most of the day engaged with Michael and Rob.  
Above: pre-setup looking at the terrain on the US left, where I would spend my time. The US would start on the right half of the table, as seen in the picture.  The Germans would start on the left side of the table.  The US plan was for the main effort to be on the right, the top of the picture, with Charlie, who would have most of the armor and push for the town from that side.  Earl would occupy the hill with a strong force and suppress the town and support the attack by fire.  I would take the left with the mission of securing the approaches to Hill 242 and holding down German forces in the area. I would have an infantry platoon of three squads and a medium machine gun team reinforced with a Sherman tank. Earl, in the center, would have a platoon plus a Sherman 76, plus the company assetts: a 57mm AT gun, CO HQ, and Mortars. Charlie, on the right, would have an armored car, a Sherman 76, and an infantry platoon, plus some armor and recon reinforcements. 
 A squad of my bully infantry coming up to support their comrades in the distance.
 Earl's company command post on Hill 242.
Charlie kicks off the attack on our right.
The 1st Squad of my platoon pushes forward and occupies a key woods. These fellows would be nicknamed "the immortals" for defying the odds and surviving constant incoming fire. Eventually, they were eliminated, but their persistence gummed up the German's freedom of maneuver on the flank and kept them from making a push until late in the game. 
My 2nd and 3rd US Infantry Squads move up and trade close range fire with Michael's German infantry.  These squads would exchange lumps and attrit one another for a good part of the game.
The view from behind the German right, opposing my heroic US reinforced platoon. Notice the skulking StuG (there was another behind the hill to the left of the picture). 
Keeping those StuGs skulking: my Sherman tank and machine gun team deployed in depth with fields of fire covering the approaches. The fire from the machine gun was key to sustaining the firefight out on the left in the open. Near the end of the game, the Germans added two motorcycle platoons to this flank and made a final push to get through, which was thwarted,  thanks in part to streaky German dice (one StuG got off three quality shots at my Sherman to no effect: but it made for high drama!). 
Above left, a German SP gun would trade shots with Earl's tank on the hill (above right). Eventually, the Sherman took out the SP, despite getting hit something like 8 times without getting brewed up.  

(with apologies to Ray
As you may have noticed, the dice were streaky for both sides, making for an entertaining game full of improbable results. The phrase, "Anthing but a 1" wound up being a prophetic curse on more than one occasion. Here is an example of what wound up being "normal" on this day.  On my flank, I was reinforced by a scout half track, which I brought up to counter 2 German motorcycle platoons that had reinforced the Germans.  As I lined up a shot from the newly arrived half track, Michael successfully activated one of his StuGs to interrupt: he got a clean shot off, hitting the half track.  BUT...there was a 1 in 10 chance that the shot would not penetrate--sure enough, Michael rolled a 1 on the penetration check.  The half track took a suppression marker, fired, and managed to put the final 2 hits on the targeted motorcycle platoon, taking it off the table.  The half track would get smoked in the next turn, but that's the kind of day it was for both sides all day long. 

-------------We Now Resume Your Battle Report------------

Above left: Mark D's Marder sheltered in the town square until about half way through the game, when it came out to take up the argument with Earl's Sherman on Hill 242 after the German SP gun went kaboom. Earl's tank couldn't touch the Marder. However, it was quickly (and improbably) taken out by Charlie's scout car swinging in from US right (like I said, it was that kind of game).   Above right, mortar fire lands on a German position in the town as seen from Earl's position on Hill 242. 
Both sides received reinforcements, most notably an additional Sherman 76 and an M10 tank destroyer for the US, and a Mark IV and Mark V (Panther!) for the Germans. The US armor went to Charlie in support of our attack on the right, and they ran into the German armor, which was sent to their left.  After knocking out the MK IV, momentum was with the US, with 3 US tanks on the wing vs 1 suppressed Panther. But the Panther then shrugged off the suppression and dispatched every surviving US armored vehicle in sight (in other words, all of 'em!).  This took the steam out of the US attack, which left the town in German hands.  For their part, the Germans failed to take Hill 242.  So the US and Germans were even on those objectives. As far as losses, each side had pummeled the other to about the same extent. Given that the US had not managed to break through to the beleaguered holdouts in the northern part of Alta Villa, however, the decision leaned German in the end.  The winner:loser determination was secondary to the excellent day of gaming we had.  
I'm reminded of how fortunate we are for being able to stage events like this on a regular basis, thanks to the efforts of a crew of excellent game masters and the good fellowship of club members.   

For more eye candy, I highly recommend checking out Michael's Flicker Album and Rob's Imgur album. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Stugging Along in Italy

What with work and other things, there's been a bit of a lull in tangible hobby news. However, there has been a flurry of intangible hobby activity related to our club's upcoming game day in mid October.  A short explanation: once per year, we assemble on a Saturday to indulge in an all-day event, often on a grand scale. Last year, it was Napoleonics. This year, we'll be jumping forward in time to the Salerno/Avalanche campaign of 1943.  Game day 2018 will consist of several linked, simultaneous Iron Cross games (in 28mm) run by a team of dedicated club members who have been planning this event for the last few months. The work of fellow blogger AJ on a stunning 28mm Tobacco Factory for his table is well worth a look as an example of the preparations involved.
Getting back to the StuG--We know that there isn't going to be much "panzer porn" on the tables on game day.  Instead, it will be "Average Joe" stuff slugging it out.  In this light, Kevin, one of the club members, advanced this hilarious characterization of the StuG III in the Panzer family:

I always thought of the Stug III as the work a day panzer. A little paunchy, a little past his prime. His younger, better paid coworkers, Panther and Tiger, went out after work. They'd hit the clubs and score big with the ladies. Stug III punched the time clock and headed home to his nagging wife (a shrew of an old PZ1 converted to an ammo carrier) and their screaming kids, a bunch of hybrid French/German schlepper self propelled guns that looked nothing like him.

Inspired by the above, we followed up with some appropriate cartoon characterizations:
The Sturmgeschutz: Average Joe Personified

The L3/35 Tankette: What You See Is What You Get 

 The Sherman Tank: Takes More Lumps Than It Dishes Out

The Pz V Panther: The Ultimate Baddie

 The Pz VI Tiger:  Eeeek!

We may be looking forward to playing with toy soldiers on game day, but it's not as if we're waiting until then to get started.

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